Emptying My Bucket List

OK, I can cross this off now.

OK, I can cross this off now.

A bucket list is important in shaping what we strive for and reminds us of the variety of experiences that we might lose sight of as we go through the routine of daily life. We get excited when we find something we want to add to it and savor the ability to cross an item off as accomplished. I realized recently that my bucket list needed emptying.

It came innocently enough. Now, don’t sneer, but I have been a Barry Manilow fan since college. He did write some songs that resonated with me at the time. And mostly they cheered me up. Bandstand, It’s a Miracle, even the one with his jingles (Advertising major, remember). Although, if I never hear Copacabana again, that would be fine. Seeing Barry in a live performance was one of those items my bucket carried. So it’s his last concert tour and he’s stopping in my city. My last chance to see him and cross this off my list.

I decided it’s not important to me now.

I am starting my Shelf List.

A Shelf List is for the time in your life when you gasp at your upcoming birthday and have no idea how time passed so quickly. A Shelf List is a way to get things off the wish list and focus on what’s important to get done. Not so much to experience or learn as to share, create, contribute. A time to realize that while it may be still possible to learn to tap dance, is it still a worthy pursuit?

Mr. Manilow is going on my shelf, along with running for a political office, and owning a vast collection of cute shoes. Things I no longer care about or realize it’s too late to really do anything with. Am I really going to read/re-read those books? Does anyone really care what’s on my feet?

Am I passionate about it? Will it help someone? Everything else goes up on the shelf and out of the way. I’ll leave those things for someone else to do.

Mighty Fine Arts

When I was in high school, if the marching band could play “Rock Around the Clock” and not bump into each other – it was a good day. As the assistant director of the school play my junior and senior year (there was only one play a year) we had to do “something funny” or no one (parents, community) would come. Forget anything involving singing, dancing, crying, etc. I should not complain. If we didn’t put on “Harvey” my senior year, I wouldn’t have met my husband, I don’t think a teen crush on the asst. director could have prompted him to try out for, say, “Oklahoma”.

Jazz Drummer Ali Jackson working with BCHS students. Photo: Marc Townley

Jazz Drummer Ali Jackson working with BCHS students. Photo: Marc Townley


Recently, I went to Byron Center High School’s “Artastic”, billed as “A Holiday Celebration of the Arts in our School!” Let me toss out some statistics gleaned from the program. First – it was well over two hours of amazing art: singing, musicians in groups and solos, and videos. There were two acts; the first had 20 performance pieces and the second had 21. While there was overlap, here are the number of members in the performing groups:
BCHS Orchestra – 42
BCHS Wind Ensemble – 71
BCHS Jazz Lab – 27
BCHS Symphonic Band – 80
BCHS Jazz Band – 18
BCHS Jazz Orchestra – 24
Women’s Chorus – 27
Concert Choir – 36
Vocal Expressions -22
Advanced Jazz Combo – 5
Sixteen Strings – 4
BCHS String Quartet – 4
Brass Quintet – 6
BCHS Theatre – 4
BCHS Audio/Visual – 6

That’s 376 positions – probably over 300 kids! In 1974 terms – everyone in the sophomore, junior, and senior classes. Then there was no “jazz”, there were no strings, there was certainly no “theatre”. We had a “play” and had a small marching band that occasionally performed sitting on folding chairs in the gymnasium.

One thing that struck me about these kids was how well they performed as a group, especially in formation or in unison. In the 70s, we were all individuals and we were like trying to herd the proverbial cats – we did nothing in unison. Being good at anything other than sports was scorned – it wasn’t cool. These kids I saw at Artastic had great technical skills, and also the very important life skills of being a team, supporting each other, acknowledging a solo performance, time management, and the discipline of daily practice. When there was a solo or another group performing, the others on stage where quiet and focused on the performers. I saw no fidgeting – and I was looking for it because it was remarkable for its absence. I wonder if it’s too late for me to learn.

Local Governing, like Math, is hard – but important.

In keeping with my curiosity about Byron Center and how it’s changed over the last 30 years, I went to a Township Board meeting.

Byron Township Hall - still like new.

Byron Township Hall – still like new.

The first thing I noticed as I walked up to the “new” building, was that I don’t recall ever seeing a building in Chicago that had a place to wipe the mud off my shoes before I entered. Just part of the overall clean and orderly look of a town still dominated by Dutch sensibilities.

No smoking and clean your shoes/boots before entering.

No smoking and clean your shoes/boots before entering.

I was the first visitor in the meeting room and was soon joined by a high school government class. They sat in back at some tables. They had brought laptops and iPads and I’m certain were totally paying attention to the meeting for the entire hour. It was a good meeting to show the details of local government and the passion of issues that strike home – or in this case homes.
An upscale development was entering phase two and there was an issue about lot size. (Forty years ago “upscale” and “Byron Center” would not ever be used in the same sentence.) The builder/developer had come with architectural posters and a lawyer. The President of the Homeowners association was also present. The lawyer spoke on how there had been no promise of specific lot size and the builder needed to add 6 more lots to make the development profitable for him. The HOA president countered that all 37 buyers involved had the same understanding of the larger lots and had all come to meetings in the past explaining that. The board voted 5 to 2 in favor of the homeowners.
Next was something involving drain maintenance. It was especially appropriate as that morning we had 5 inches of rain in 3 hours. The Drain Guy said this was a 500 year event. (Really? We had that in Chicago every couple years. Highways flooded, O’Hare closed, power out for days.) I was amazed by the precise formulas that took into account how much of the drain was in each township or county it went through, size of homeowner lot, and I think if you were at the end of the drain or beginning. It would cost each Byron homeowner along the drain an assessment of $3 – which could be spread over 2 years. I tried to imagine how long it took to work the original formula and then get it passed by the governing entities. I thought if I had been in on those meetings I be the one spinning around in my chair with pencils stuck up my nose. Guess my dream of being in politics was correctly abandoned. The measure passed.
Thank you Audrey and the Board for dealing with boring but really important stuff and also making decisions that Solomon might have wanted to take a pass on.

This is the entrance of the women's restroom. This wreath would also look great on my front door.

This is the entrance of the women’s restroom. This wreath would also look great on my front door.


I remember it bigger.

Another visit to a building from my past. After attending Deb Sportel’s gallery showing, I stopped by my old elementary school. Blain was one of the “feeder” schools that were built in the early 60’s to accommodate baby boomers.


There were several around the district and they had four rooms – one for each grade – first through fourth. Blain was pretty much on the other side of some hills that made up the acreage of our backyard. If there could have been a path cleared through woods and prairie, I could have walked to school instead of being the first one picked up by the bus and the last one dropped off (not that I’m bitter). Deb (Maier) Sportel was my best friend in grade school at Blain. I would go over to her house and we would put on musical shows in the barn.
Blain has been abandoned for several years. The playground area is overgrown and all the swings, monkey bars, and huge pieces of concrete pipe that we used for “safe” when playing tag – those are all gone.


A new elementary school was built a couple miles away and has more than four rooms in it. It’s used by the kids and grandkids of my classmates at Blain and the many other people that have built the big new homes in the area that used to be farms and fields.



Classmates Project Update

As a person who has squandered many braincells learning (or not so much) DOS, MS-DOS, Windows, WordPerfect, Compuserv, Word, Excel, Powerpoint, Pages, Keynote, Outlook, gmail, yahoo, WordPress, Palm Pilot, Final Draft, Scrivener, HTML, Movie Magic, my iPod, Evernote, various company specific software/lookups/cash register programs – and I won’t even get into cell phones, smartphones, iPhones, and all the required apps – I’m distressed by the number of my high school classmates that “don’t do the computer or email stuff.” I don’t know how you managed to do that and I envy the stress you avoided and the time you saved by not having to click on cute puppy videos.

I planned to interview until August 15, being certain that I could hunt down 40 or 50 of my classmates. I got 21. There are, possibly, a couple more I could get. Took pages of notes. Had lots of pleasant surprises and a lot of fun. Working now on compiling my findings. Don’t know if there is a full-fledged reunion in our future but there may be some smaller events.

Yes, It’s Been That Long!

I’m a writer and love stories and find myself back where I grew up after living elsewhere since college. Next year will be 40 years since my high school graduation.


So, I have devised a project where I get to hunt down and interview as many of my classmates as I can. I live in an age of Facebook and email and lots of my classmates stayed in the area. So how hard can it be to find 50-60 of a class of just over 100? Not as easy as it seemed when I came up with this idea. And then there’s finding time in everyone’s schedule to meet/talk for 1-2 hours.
I was just so curious to find out how people navigated through the last 39 years and compare that to some simple predictions that had been made our senior year.
I’ve only done a handful of interviews so far, but here are some initial observations:

  • Very few people have kept in touch with any others in the class except by relation, work, or church.
  • Most had no particular plans or ideas about their life after high school when they graduated.
  • Family is the most important thing.
  • Specialty food and home brewed beer and wine are popular hobbies.
  • I am emotionally drained after re-living their highs and lows with each person.
  • We had no clue what was really going on then in each other’s home life.
  • Never imagined we’d get this old.

I hope to wrap up the majority of the interviews by mid-August and write some blogs/articles for local media after that.

Then we can discuss a reunion.